Most helpful critical review
An unpleasant read...
on November 8, 2015
I know this is considered a modern classic, and in many eyes, I am sure it is. Perhaps I just missed it, perhaps I didn't. But I must say that this was one of the most brutally depressing, and oftentimes hard to follow books I have ever read. I found the main character of Stephen Dedalus to at first be one I felt great sympathy for, but his rejection of his faith I found to lead only to a spiritual shrug on his part. He portrays himself so egotistically as some kind of genius artist, and yet I am still uncertain what his art really consists of other than his rejection of his faith and his forming his own spirituality/philosophy.
The book itself is exceedingly difficult to read, as the format he writes is very spontaneous and loaded with new names every few sentences of new characters, of whom the reader has no idea who they are. Chapter II was by far the best chapter, very Augustinian in its approach to sin and redemption. However, Chapter III I really could have done without - an extended, detailed and terrifying meditation on the sufferings of the damned in Hell, it has everything in it that one often associates with the stereotypical notion of "Catholic guilt". Half of the time, I was uncertain as to what was even going on with Stephen beyond that point.
Truly, this novel has moments of pure genius, and there were times where I was in love with its pages. However, at the end of it, I was left with little more than a sour taste in my mouth. A dark, murky, unclear and at times, horrifying read. A knowledge of pre-Vatican II Catholicism will definitely aid the reader in understanding at least the first three chapters.